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RVing Here and There

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  • Leduc – Beaumont – Joseph Lake – Miquelon Lake Bike Loop

    Posted on September 21st, 2017 admin 1 comment

    Recently,  I did a little 118 km weekend loop to a couple of local lakes.  This was not as far as my earlier four-day loop.  This run had the following purposes

    1. Ride the new bike (first taken on the Tunder Lake supported tour) withe all the mods
    2. Use the new 12L World Tour panniers from MEC as front panniers (with the ones I got with the bike on the back)
    3. Practice planning and writing out a route
    4. Provide a test run for a possible group ride next summer

    Bike Mods

    Nothing significant, really.  I took the Rocky Mountain hybrid  that a previous owner had converted for touring.  First, I transferred the pedals and toe clips from my urban bike — really made a difference.  I hadn’t realized that the pedals on the RM were a bit stiff (I’ll fix them), but I had noticed my feet jumping off the pedals on bumps.   Second, I raised the seat by 1 cm.  Not a lot, but it made a difference.  Third, I tilted  the adjustable stem up as far as it would go; this also reduced the reach.  I think I’ll want to raise the headset with a couple of spacers.  Fourth, I tilted the bars back a bit.   Where drop bars let you move up and down as you shift grip, these bars have me moving forward and back.  Not sure I like that, but on this trip the reduced reach was more comfortable than on the Thunder Lake trip.  Finally, I moved my wired bike computer over to this bike so I could track distances, speed, cadence etc.

    New Panniers

    I had got a set of panniers with the bike; they’re an older MEC model, about 20L, waterproof and in good condition.  The previous owner had apparently used these as front panniers on a trip in Argentina.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    I shifted them to the back, where they fit just fine; the chainstays are long enough and the bags narrow enough that I don’t kick them.  They’re roomier than the bags I took on a four-day, three-night trip, and would probably be all I’d need.

    World Tour 12L 5038400-IND39

    MEC 12L World Tour pannier

    But the bike did come with front racks, so…  Mountain Equipment Coop had their World Tour 12L panniers on sale for $10 off, so I bought a couple as front panniers.  They are about the same color as the other ones, so look like a matched set.   The World Tour bags aren’t waterproof, but they come with a rain cover that tucks into a handy inside pocket.

    They’re not quite as easy to access as the others.  There’s only one zip-up front pocket, suitable for something flat such as a guidebook or maybe a small flat first aid kit.  Otherwise, it’s just one deep pocket with a couple of little ones inside.   That’s okay — with the others, all the pockets and dividers just mean I can’t remember where I put anything!   It will take a few tours to decide what goes best where.

    Four panniers provides far more room than I needed for an overnight, so I set out with them mostly empty.

    Planning the Bike Tour

    I used Google Maps in the beta bike mode to plot the route, measure distances between points, check elevation, and select rest stops.  I knew the area, and had traveled to the various stops by car, though I hadn’t followed the particular route that I worked out.   I laid the route out in legs, choosing distances based on my admittedly limited experience that I thought would work, and stopping at places that I knew would be good (availability of water, toilets, and picnic tables for example).

    Solid line - proposed route.  Dotted line - actual route

    Solid line – proposed route. Dotted line – actual route

    I sent my work to a few other riders in the Millet Cycling Meetup for comment.

     

    On the Road East to Miquelon Lake

    My friend and fellow rider Susan liked the plan and wanted to come.  She had a long drive to reach the starting point, and we set out about an hour late.   We didn’t follow my planned route, electing to stay on pavement (I hadn’t been able to tell from Google Maps even in satellite view whether a particular road was paved or gravel). The legs worked out okay, though we were a bit late to lunch at Joseph Lake. I had built in enough flexibility that we reached Miquelon Lake in good time at around 4:00 pm, in plenty of time to set up and have supper before a threatened rainstorm.

    We both agreed that that part of the ride had been a good one.  With an earlier start, we would have had time to explore Beaumont and Joseph Lake a bit as planned, and maybe take a side loop into New Sarepta in passing, but neither of us felt deprived by missing them.

     Camping and Riding the Miquelon Lake Trails

    Campsite in the rain, Sunday morning

    Campsite after the rain, Sunday morning

    After we set up, we rode around the camp a bit,  and I had a shower.  We had a huge RV site, as Alberta provincial parks are not bicycle friendly.   We did look into the group site, and talked with the park attendant about how many cyclists and tents we would be allowed to have in one site; we’ll have to talk to the parks people for more than two.  She said she’d had many cyclotourists come in this summer and all had been disappointed to have to pay for and occupy a huge RV site.

    It rained that evening, sending us under my little tarp to eat supper.  The rain in the night gave us a good sleep.  The next morning, Susan showered while I made breakfast.  Using freeze-dried food was a bit of a novelty for both of us; last night’s supper was good but I don’t think I put enough water into the hash browns!   I was also using a newly-acquired windscreen for my Trangia spirit stove.  Worked well, cut down boiling time and conserved fuel.

    Trangia spirit stove boiling water for hashbrowns.

    Trangia spirit stove boiling water for hashbrowns.

    After breakfast, the rain cleared up. We packed what gear we could and spread out the rest to dry, then headed off to enjoy the 20 km of backwoods trails in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park.  Some were a bit muddy after the rain but we had no trouble.  Susan hadn’t ridden since our trip to Banff (I didn’t write that one up) so walked up a few of the steeper hills.  Only got lost once when I followed a trail that wasn’t on the map (but then, I’d lost the map, and Susan said I’d turned the wrong way at the first turn, so that’s no surprise).

    Susan, holding a treasure she found in the woods along the trail.

    Susan, holding a treasure she found in the woods along the trail.

    Heading Back to Leduc

    We found our way back to camp, had a quick cold lunch, and finished packing our mostly-dry gear.    Despite the rain and taking a bit more time on the trails than planned, the quick lunch meant we were only about an half hour later than I’d estimated.

    All this time, a stiff and gusty wind had been blowing.  Hadn’t bothered us in the woods.  But as soon as we left the park, we were in it.  Dead into it.   Turns out that four panniers creates quite a bit of drag!   A lot of sail area for a cross-wind, too, threatening to blow me into traffic or off the road.

    Also, the nice downhills we followed yesterday were now uphills going back.   They weren’t much as hills go, gentle slopes that normally we’d have cruised up, gear and all.  But the combination of hills and headwinds was pretty wearing.  Susan, tough farm-woman that she is, just gritted her teeth and kept on pedalling,  while I found myself tiring and needing frequent breaks.   I was sure glad to see the end of the 28 km first leg and pull into Rollyview.  Thanks to the wind, we arrived two hours later than scheduled.

    I was pretty worn out. If there had been no other choice, I could have rested at Rollyview then finished the last 14 km to Leduc.  But I had nothing to prove, not even to myself, so I called my wife to come and pick us up.  Although Susan said she was good to carry on, I think she was glad enough of the lift.   We all went out for supper at McDonalds then went our separate ways.

    Evaluating the Tour Route

    If not for the wind and our late starts, the route would have been fine.  But clearly, tour planning has to take such things into consideration.  Start times need to be made clear, and adhered to insofar as possible, but perhaps alternate rest stops need to be in place for adverse conditions, and end times need to be flexible rather than tight deadlines.

     

     

  • Thunder Lake Cycle Tour with EBTC

    Posted on August 8th, 2017 admin No comments

    On August 5-6 I went on the Thunder Lake trip with Edmonton Bicycle & Touring Club.  Earlier this year, Ed Weymouth had come out to the Millet Circuit Cycle & Sports bike Meetup some time ago to talk about touring, and he met us at the start and finish in Onoway.

    Concerns About the EBTC

    Before the trip, I had several concerns

    • I’d heard that the group rode very quickly, and I was concerned about keeping up
    • Perhaps they were all younger riders and I’d feel out of place
    • It had been suggested to me that it was a tight clique of riders who’d didn’t warm to strangers

    I’ll address those concerns as I describe the trip.

    Day 1:  Cycling From Onoway to Thunder Lake

    We assembled in Onoway at 09:00, a group of people around my age, so I fit in well that way.  Introductions and a bit of chat took care of another concern; people in the group obviously knew each other well, but they were friendly and  I felt welcome.  After packing gear onto the SAG van, we left around 09:30 and rode off.   The day was cool, and we rode through some spooky, damp fog patches.  We stopped about 25 km to the Esso station at Hwy 43 for ice cream.  This was actually the wrong place — we were supposed to have taken our break a km or so back at a Domo station.

    Through the fog.

    Through the fog.  Photo by Greg

    The next leg took us at a crisp pace.  I pumped hard to keep up with another rider, who told me we were travelling at 24 km/h.  This is a bit faster than I’m used to, my first concern, but with effort I was able to keep up.  The only result was that I worked a bit harder than usual, and was a little more tired.

    Tom working hard but being passed by Barbara and John

    Tom working hard but being passed by Barbara and John

    We zoomed into Cherhill,where we stopped for lunch at the local ball diamond.   Lunch was do-it-yourself sandwiches: fresh crusty rolls, tomatoes, lettuce, three kinds of sliced cheese, three kinds of sliced meat (ham, chicken, beef), dill pickles, apple juice, cookies, bananas, oranges….   It was at this point that I realized the truth of something one of the group had said, “We are an eating group with a mild cycling disorder”.

    Lunch at Cherhill -- making sandwiches and spraying for mosquitoes.

    Lunch at Cherhill, making sandwiches and spraying for mosquitoes.

    A short leg, 18 km, took us north on Twp Rd 764 to a rest stop at Meadowview Community School.  I was getting pretty tired, some 68 km into the trip, so the break was welcome.  We finished off some fruit and granola bars and cookies left over from lunch before setting off on the final 20 km section.  We rolled into the provincial park at 15:37.   I had really wanted to take a photo of some cyclists in front of the park sign, but I couldn’t catch up to them in time.  Guess I could have waited for a couple to catch up, but by this time I really wanted to get off my bike and set up camp!

    20170805_152247

    We grabbed another ice cream break at the camp store, where we sheltered under cover during a brief rain.  Then we set off up a winding gravel road to the overflow area, another couple of kilometers away.   Yay, 89 km over and done.  I think this was my longest ride to date.

    Camping at Thunder Lake Provincial Park

    There were signs of recent heavy rains — a soggy parking lot and wet grass.   We set up our tents around the perimeter of the area and settled in.  The overflow area was beside a creek draining the lake, with a nice bridge (though the trail on the other side was overgrown) over a waterfall.

    Irene poses by the waterfall.  Photo by Greg

    Irene poses by the waterfall. Photo by Greg

    The lake was beautiful in the evening.  This shot was taken from just behind my tent.

    Thunder Lake that evening.  Photo by Greg.

    Thunder Lake that evening. Photo by Greg.

    I was beat, so after I got set up I took a nap.  Didn’t really sleep, just dozed, and woke up when I heard Debbie, the trip organizer, call for supper.

    My tent in the misty morning

    My little orange tent in the misty morning

    Ah, supper.  Ribs barbequed over the open fire, cole slaw, corn-on-the-cob, boiled baby spuds, baked beans, with red wine courtesy of John and Barbara; for dessert, meringues with Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries and raspberries.

    The group at supper, checkered tablecloths and all.

    The group at supper, checkered tablecloths and all.

    After cleanup, the group sat around the campfire with a desultory discussion about immigration; although it was interesting, I think most people were tired enough not to get into it.  Certainly I was beat.  I wanted to go to bed at 21:30 but the group persuaded me to stay up a bit longer.  Nonetheless, at 21:50 I excused myself and hit the tent.  The rest followed shortly.

    Irene, who claimed to be the oldest rider in the group, showing off her tattoo.

    Irene, who claimed to be the oldest rider in the group, showing off her tattoo.

    Day 2:  Return via Barrhead

    We were up around 7:30 for “First breakfast” of coffee, juice, fruit, croissants with jam.   People packed up with great efficiency — they have obviously done this many times — and to my surprise I was one of the last to load up.

    Getting packed to leave Sunday morning

    Getting packed to leave Sunday morning

    The day’s first leg was a nice stretch into Barrhead, where we stopped at the A&W for “Second breakfast”.  Hadn’t thought I’d need anything, but croissants don’t stay with you, so  I had a pancake, bacon, hashbrowns, coffee.  As always when I’ve been pedalling, whatever I eat tastes delicious.

    Lunch at Meadowview School on Day 2

    Lunch at Rich Valley Agriplex on Day 2

    Oooh, a long stretch of 32 km along Hwy 333 to Rich Valley, where we enjoyed watermelon and whatever was leftover.  A few cookies, a piece of orange, a Clif bar that I had in my bag.  Filled my water bottle with Biosteel then left it behind…. good thing I had a second full bottle.

    This is a good time to mention bikes.   I was happy that the gearing on my new bike made the hillsf a lot easier, but not happy with the pedals, seat, or bars.  More work needed on fitting.  Most of the bikes people rode were top-end, a lot of Specialized, a couple of Italian bikes, a couple of carbon frames; the members have been riding for 20 or 30 years or more and seem to be continually upgrading equipment.  Interesting and educational for me.

    Another 12 km took us to the junction with Hwy 43, where I took another brief rest with two other cyclists, then one final 12 km push (which wasn’t bad) back to Onoway, where I recovered my water bottle and said goodbye to everyone.

    The traditional end-of-ride group shot in front of the van.

    The traditional end-of-ride group shot in front of the van.

    Was it a bit of a challenge?  Yes, because the ride was a bit faster than I’d have done on my own.  Was it fun?  Overall, it was an enjoyable ride.  Was i glad i went, definitely.  Would I go again?   For sure.

  • Ready for the Rain

    Posted on August 1st, 2017 admin No comments

     

    After getting soaked on my four-day tour,  I acquired some new gear.

    • New (used) bike (actually, I got the bike the day before I left on the tour).
    • New (used) rear panniers (ditto).
    • New front panniers with rain covers.
    • New rain pants.
    • New green waterproof cover for tent.
    In this photo, I haven't attached the front handlebar bag.

    In this photo, I haven’t attached the front handlebar bag.

    New Gear Needs to be Tested

    It’s my opinion that new gear should be tested before use.   It always amazes me to find someone in a campground struggling to put up a new tent for the first time, often under stressful circumstances such as rain, high wind, or interference from helpful but hyperactive kids.  “Did you try it out at home?”  Nope.

    I just can’t understand that.   When I was selecting a tent for bike touring, I tested each choice a few times before making a selection to take on tour.  We also have an older large 8-man dome tent that we might use for an upcoming truck camping trip; I set that up in the back yard to refresh my memory on setup, ensure that all the parts were still there, and to make sure it hadn’t suffered from years of storage (found one large hole that needs patched).    Confession:  my “solar” phone charger arrived shortly before my tour, so I was forced to take it with me untested.  And it bit me in the end: the solar charging didn’t work and my phone died.  Caveat emptor.

    World Tour 20L Pannier Indigo/Cobalt

    My front panniers are new MEC 12L World Tour that were $20 off for a pair. Yes, the photo shows 20L, but otherwise they’re identical.

    Anyway.  Today I stuffed some random gear into the panniers, put the rain covers on the front, then rode for 30 minutes (about 10 km) in the rain to see if everything — including me — would stay dry. For the most part, it did.

    The Panniers Perform

    I had some concerns about the front panniers.  The bottom hooks didn’t engage the rack, which meant that the bags could swing out.  It was also the first time I had ridden with full front panniers, and I’ve read that they could affect steering and maneuvering.   Turned out neither was an issue.  The panniers stayed where they were, and I rode some zig-zags, tight circles, and figure-eights, with no problems at all.

    The front pannier covers worked beautifully.  They fit well and shed the rain.   Although some water splashed up on the back of each pannier when I went through puddles, the plastic backing kept the water out.  I suspect that after a day of rain, the bottoms of these panniers would be wet and the contents damp.

    I got the rear panniers with the bike and front racks.  The folks I bought them from  had used them for front panniers on a trip to South America.  However, they seem to be in good condition and the waterproof lining has not worn through anywhere that I could see.

    One of the rear panniers let in a little water, but it may have been that I didn’t have it fastened down properly.  They’re an older MEC model, no longer available — waterproof bags with an inner drawstring closure, compression straps, a few extra inner and outer pockets.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The drawstring closure sack at the top is not waterproof, and I think I had one overstuffed (with my old mummy bag) and not compressed enough.  A part of that sleeping bag got wet.

    Keeping Myself Dry

    As for the cyclist — my Gore-Tex rain jacket did a good enough job, and the new rain pants kept my bottom half dry.  I used poor-man booties, which consist of a plastic garbage sack slipped over each foot before putting on my runners.  This is an old trick: the running shoes get wet, but the feet stay dry and warm.  After my half-hour shower, I was dry.  Sort of.  Both my jacket and my rain pants are supposedly “breathable”, but neither has vents.  After 30 minutes at a moderate pace,  sweat had started to accumulate, and I was riding with the jacket and my under-layer unzipped.  By the end of an hour in the rain, I might have been pretty damp in my “dry” clothes.

    Ready for my Next Bike Tour

    So, several hundred dollars later, I’ve got gear that I think will work well for the light touring I plan to do.  Apparently, with four panniers and the front bag, I have enough storage to tour for months (after all, I did four days on two smaller rear panniers).

  • At the Side of the Road

    Posted on July 25th, 2017 admin No comments

    As I was biking along over the weekend, I was surprised at what I noticed along the side of the road.  Many interesting and unexpected things.

    1. Tools – I found a complete flex head ratchet set, retail $129; a 10″ adustable wrench, maybe $10; and a combination ratchet, MSRP $32.  Yes, over $170 in tools and except for the 10″ wrench, things I didn’t have.  I though the value was worth the weight, and carried them home.  Hey, it was only a kilogram and a half of steel in the bottom of a pannier.

      http://s7d5.scene7.com/is/image/CanadianTire/0588586_1?defaultImage=image_na_EN&wid=160&hei=160&op_sharpen=1

      A flex-head ratchet combo set, sort of like what I found.

    2. Energy drink cans – Do energy drink drinkers drink more cans than beer drinkers?  Or do they just throw out their cans more?  Is the number of cans a sign of the success of the energy drink industry?
    3. Bic lighters – If your Bic won’t flick, toss it.  Image result for bic lighter
    4. Coyote scat – I guess it’s more pleasant to poop if there isn’t gra$$ up your a$$.
    5. Little black beetles – Saw a couple of these every kilometer. About 1 cm long, all seemed the same species, all seemed to be suicidal, crawling from the ditch into the traffic lanes.  Squish.
    6. An intact and undamaged plastic flip-lid kitchen trash can.  Too big to take home.   Don’t need it anyway.

      Image result for junk in ditch

      Generic junk tossed on the side of the road. I didn’t see this much on my trip.  I’m glad.

    7. Gloves.  More gloves.  Do people throw them away?  Do they fly out of pickup boxes?
    8. Clothing – Jackets, pants, t-shirts, underwear, socks, shoes.  Not a single bra. I’ll add here towels, facecloths, j-cloths, chamois, and a set of curtains.  How do you lose a set of curtains along the highway?

    Since I was mostly watching the scenery and greenery, I probably missed some stuff.

  • Sylvan Lake Bike Tour

    Posted on July 25th, 2017 admin No comments

    My interest piqued by an overnight bike tour to a friend’s acreage with the Circuit Cycle & Sport Meetup, I recently did a 250+ km solo bike tour:  Leduc > Wizard Lake > Falun > Crestomere > Sylvan Lake > Red Deer > Lacombe > Blackfalds > Ponoka > Wetaskiwin > Home.  The idea was just to try it, to see if I could do it, to test my equipment, to learn.

    Tried it, did it, learned a lot.

    Day 1:  Leduc to Falun

    First day, 61 km to a friend’s farm south of Falun.  It was a lovely day, and although it was hazy due to  smoke from BC forest fires, I had no problem.  Setting out at 08:30, I took my time, enjoyed the scenery.  Stopped for lunch at beautiful Jubilee Park on Wizard Lake south of Calmar, and rode around the campground and nature trail.  All the time I’ve lived in this area, and it’s the first time I’d visited!

    Lunch at Jubilee Park, Wizard Lake, Alberta

    Lunch at Jubilee Park, Wizard Lake, Alberta

    Wind blew the flame from my little Trangia spirit stove around and wasted fuel; I had to move to a more sheltered spot to cook my noodles with fresh snow peas.  Learned:  I need a wind screen for the stove!

    The roar of traffic passing me was a bother, and one motorbike that ripped by actually hurt my ears.  I’m already losing hearing in my left ear.   Learned:  I stuck an earplug in that side.  It helped, and I used it on every highway after that.

    Taking a break in the atrium at Pigeon Lake Regional High, west of Falun

    Taking a break in the atrium at Pigeon Lake Regional High, west of Falun

    Rain in the forecast for late afternoon, but I made it to the farm in good time, about 16:30, long before the threatened rain.  During a wonderful evening, my hostess fed me supper and home-brewed kombucha (strange stuff, but tasty) and excellent conversation, let me play with her grandchildren and gave me a bed for the night.  Just as well, given the torrential downpour — but I wondered how I’d have fared in the little tent.

    Day 2:  Falun to Sylvan Lake

    I was a bit excited and didn’t sleep all that well.  Woke up early and since my hostess had gone to work at 5:00 and the rest of the household was still asleep, I quietly slipped out and headed off just after 07:00.  Today would be a long haul, 85 km with lots of elevation, and I was glad of the early start.

    Rather than backtrack north and east to the highway, I had decided to go 4 miles south on Rge Rd 275, then cut west to Sec Hwy 292, which I thought was paved.  It wasn’t.  So I slogged through 9 km or more of freshly maintained, rain-soaked gravel.  It was tough going, mostly uphill; this stretch wore me down and slowed me down, a bad way to start the morning.  I was glad to reach pavement, to stop for a breakfast of coffee and a bagel with peanut butter.  May not seem like much, but it was delicious and filling after only an energy gel for the first leg.  Sure getting some use out of the Trangia stove.

    And what's after that hill?  Oh, goody, another hill.

    And what’s after that hill? Oh, goody, another hill.

    Shortly after I reached the paved portion of the highway, around 09:00, a light rain started, driven by a northwest wind (sort of at my back).  I pulled in at Crestomere store for a break.  The rain showed no sign of stopping, so I decided to add another layer under my raincoat and press on.   I could have continued south on Hwy 292, passing east of Gull lake.  Instead, I chose to go west on Hwy 53, then south on Hwy 771/20, west of Gull lake; it seemed the more direct route.  Perhaps that was a mistake.

    The rain worsened, and the wind strengthened more from the west.  Highway 53 west was hill after hill, so I was driving into the wind, into the rain, and uphill.  A real grind.  I was so glad to turn south again to get the wind and rain at my back.

    By 13:00, I was soaked below the waist, and had started shivering.  Even cranking hard, I wasn’t warm. Realizing that I might be in serious trouble soon, I pulled off at a house for sale.  Unoccupied, it had a large covered front veranda where I could get out of the rain.  Even sheltered, I shivered, so I stripped off my wet socks and shorts, unpacked my mattress and sleeping bag, and snuggled in.  I set my stove up in a corner sheltered from the wind, boiled water for freeze-dried rice and chicken, then burrowed deeper into the bag while it rehydrated.  It was only while I was eating this hot meal that I started to warm up again. Learned:  If I’m going to ride in the rain, I need rain pants!

    By 14:00, the rain had slacked off, so I put on dry socks and wet shorts, packed up, and got back on the road.   Eventually, things dried out as I rode.  I made it to my destination, another person’s house in Sylvan Lake, around 18:30.  Had I waited in Crestomere for the rain to stop, I’d have been hours later.  Even so, it took me over 11 hours to travel some 85 km.

    I set up camp in the back yard, put my panniers in the tent, changed clothes, and rode on  a marvelously light bike to A&W for a delicious burger, onion rings, and two big mugs of root beer!  Let’s hear it for greasy fast food!  Back to the house where I threw all my wet and muddy gear into the washer, and went to bed at 21:30.

    Day 3:  Sylvan Lake to Ponoka

    Slept until 08:30 the next morning.  Eleven hours.  Guess I was tired or something. But nothing hurt.  Moved my tent into the sun to dry (heavy dew). Threw the wet stuff into the drier.  Helped myself to cereal, washed dishes, folded clothes, packed up.  By the time the tent was dry and I was ready to go, it was 11:00.  I rode around Sylvan Lake for a while, checked out the beach, then set out east on Hwy  11A to Red Deer.

    This day was a gorgeous contrast to yesterday.  Blue sky, sunny, light wind from the northwest to speed me along.  Kind of wished I’d decided to stay on the beach!   But like the day, this leg was a wonderful contrast to yesterday.  Good road, wide shoulders, light traffic, gentle hills and mostly downhill.  Almost as if I’d planned it that way.  :)

    Almost before I knew it I was at Red Deer, where I  joined the Trans Canada Trail north.  This was a familiar route, and it was surprising how quickly I found myself in Blackfalds.  Lunch by the Abbey Centre was a little tin of ravioli and some beef jerky from a nearby convenience store.  Sure, it’s junky, but it tasted good.

    Day 3 en route to Red Deer.

    Day 3 en route to Red Deer.

    Following the TCT took me through Lacombe, then on the Bluebird Trail east along Milton Road and north on gravel past the J. J. Collett Nature Centre.  I would have stopped and explored the trails, but I was unsure of the timing of this leg, and unhappy to be on gravel again, so I continued on into Morningside then north on 2A (leaving the Bluebird).

    The last stretch into Ponoka was not bad.  This northern leg was also largely downhill on a good road.  In Ponoka my plan was to stay at the Frank Mickey RV Park and Campground.  This was hard to find — no signs that I saw — and I had to talk to a few people (most of them had never heard of it) and wander around before I found it.  And rode up to a sign that said “NO TENTS”.  The lady in the office was quite firm.  Tenters are messy, they party, they wreck stuff.  Nearest campground, she told me, was Wolf Lake, 8 km back towards Morningside.  Fooey on adding 16 km to my trip.  I rode on.

    At Range Road 440, I found a riparian conservation project bordering the Battle River, with a wonderful camping spot right by the river and although I had to travel further to camp there, I was not sorry that Frank Mickey campground had cast me out.  I set up camp around 19:30, waded in the river, and explored the road across the river.  Went to bed around 21:30, fell asleep watching the sunset through the open doors of the tent, and slept until 08:30.

    My camp by the Battle River

    My camp by the Battle River.  Off the road in case a 4 x 4 roars by in the night.

    The Battle River just meters from my camp

    The Battle River just meters from my camp

    I had covered 81.5 km from Sylvan Lake, a leg almost as long as yesterday, but far more pleasant.

    Day 4: Ponoka to Wetaskiwin

    Woke to a bright day and slugs all over the tent.  Not inside, fortunately.  Shook them all off and moved the tent to a sunny spot to dry out.   Was almost out of water so boiled some river water for coffee (hmm, what consequences to that?) .  Breakfast was pita bread and canned flakes of ham.  No matter what I eat on this trip, it tastes delicious.

    Another easy downhill to Wetaskiwin.  Stopped at McD’s for coffee and to charge my phone.  Had bought a solar-powered charger but it didn’t work despite all day yesterday in the sun.  A miscommunication with my wife had me thinking she’d pick me up to go berry-picking with some friends after she got out of church.  So I rode to By-the-Lake Park, another pleasant spot, to finish off the ham flakes with more pita for lunch.

    I could easily have gone the remaining 35 km to Leduc.  However, when my ride arrived, I learned that the choice had been for her to go pick berries or come pick me up.  We didn’t go picking berries. Instead, we went home.  Where I had the runs.  Thank you, Battle River.  Learned:  even if you think you’ll always be near a store, bring water purification tabs.

    So Was it Worth It?

    This was the question my wife asked.  The answer is an unqualified yes.  I learned a lot about touring and about myself.  Day two was tough, but I survived, and adversity gives you a measure of your strength.  After three and a half days and over 250 km, I wasn’t particularly sore or stiff.

    Yes, overall, I enjoyed it.  I’ll improve my equipment, and I’ll be ready to go again.  And I lost three pounds.

    Related Reading

     

     

  • Naturehike Tents: Silent Wing vs Ultralight Cycling

    Posted on July 5th, 2017 admin No comments

    I wound up with two light-weight single-person tents:

    Both tents were supposedly available for under $100, though I ended up having to order the Silent Wing from another warehouse and paid about $110.

    Rather than list the specifications side by side, I’ll just give a quick comparison.

    Naturehike NH18A095-D without storm skirt

    Naturehike NH18A095-D without storm skirt

    Size

    The cycling tent is a little larger.  Its rectangular floorplan gives a little more room inside for a wider camper or a bit more gear.  The Silent Wing’s tapered footprint skimps on floor space but cuts down on weight.  Both tents have roughly equal height from floor to peak, but the crossed poles of the Silent Wing seem to give more headroom.  The cycling tent has an A-frame and when I sit up, the sides of the peak seem pretty close to my head.  Doesn’t really bother me, but the Wing definitely feels roomier up top.

    Silent Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    Silent Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    Gear Storage

    Both tents have a little (barely adequate) storage pocket; for the SW it’s in the roof, for the Cycling tent it’s by the door.  Both were handy to keep my glasses safe and out of the way.

    The narrow tapered design of the SW means there’s room in the tent for a sleeper and not much else.  I’m short and not too broad, so was able to stow a little gear at the head or foot and a little in the vestibule (boots and bar bag) but the panniers had to go outside under a little tarp.

    The rectangular orange cycling tent is far more roomy.  In the one heavy rain this tent was in, I was able to get all my gear under cover in the tent or under the vestibule without feeling crowded.  A taller, broader camper might not find it so roomy.

    Weatherproofing

    The two tents are similar in density, and waterproofing, with the SW being just a bit lighter fabric.

    I initially had a concern that rain would come in when the vestibule was open.  With the tents  oriented so the vestibule was 45 degrees to the prevailing wind, this turned out not to be a serious issue.  Sure, a little rain got in whenever I went in or out.  It wasn’t much.  Before my entry/exit I pushed the sleeping bag back so rain wouldn’t hit it.   Then I mopped up the moisture with my towel.  Let’s face it, by the time that storm was over, almost everything was a bit damp.

    There was a minor issue of water getting under the fly on the SW during one of two heavy extended rainstorms, but I fixed that by adjusting the fly.  Not the fault of the tent.  I think if I were to use this tent more I’d add another strap to peg the foot end of the fly further out from the tent.

    On the other hand, the storm flaps on the Cycling tent work really well at keeping out rain.  Combined with the A-frame structure, they’d also keep out snow, making this a possible three-season tent. Unfortunately, they also keep out air circulation, and the little triangular vent (similar in both tents) is not sufficient to keep moisture from building up inside the tent.  Condensation on the inside of the fly is common in all tents, but in the SW there is enough air circulation to cut down on condensation a bit.    Both tents were fine with one side of the vestibule left open.

    I used some glue-on Velcro dots to hold the storm flaps up when I want them up.  I can just detach them if I want them down. We’ll see if that vents a bit better.

    Conclusions

    I like them both.  The Silent Wing is a bit more technically advanced, is has less floor space but more headroom, and less room for gear storage.  It definitely makes some minor sacrifices to be light and compact.  The Cycling tent is roomier on the floor but has less headroom when I sit up.  The storm flaps may offer some weatherproofing but reduce ventilation.

    Since I will be doing more cycling than backpacking, I’m keeping the orange and will sell the blue.

  • Shopping for a Solar Cell Phone Charger

    Posted on July 4th, 2017 admin 1 comment

    When we went on a recent bike trip (I’m not sure if I should call it bikepacking or touring), my cell phone went dead.  The trip host had a little solar charger mounted on his gear that kept his phone going for the whole trip.  I decided that looked useful and went online to find one.

    I buy a lot of this kind of stuff at banggood.com, one of the many Chinese online stores.  The have an amazing number of such chargers.   A spreadsheet is a good way to handle product research.

    Item # Description Length Width Thick mAh Mass (g) Flashlight Notes Price Shipping
    1124246 Solar Waterproof Portable Charger Dual USB Battery Power Bank 16 6,5 1,5 8000 6 @ 1 mm square Charging Lights, Carabiner $21.64 Free
    1106656 Dual USB Solar External Power Bank Battery Charger Pack For iPhone 7 Plus Xiaomi Smartphone 12 7.5 2 8000 single LED charge indicator; no mounting method $18.94 Free
    1014154 Universal 8000mAh Battery Solar Outdoor Travel Charger Level Indicator DC 5V 2A Power Bank 14.4 7.4 1.8 8000 12 LED – 2.4W Charge lights. Handle at top to secure. Anti-water, anti-shock, dustproof . Many bad reviews (82% positive) $17.58 Free
    1116234 Solar Climbing Clasp External DuaL USB Charger Power Bank For iPhone 7 Xiaomi Samsung 16 7.5 1.5 8000 Single LED with diffuser Includes carabiner. Image shows it wet, implies waterproof $21.64 Free
    999107 Solar Charger 8000mAh Dual USB Port Power Indicator Light Power Bank for Cellphone 19.5 11.4 3.3 8000 260 Single LED Funny “handle” on top. HUGE unit. Anti-shock/drop/water/dust $23.27 Free
    1111247 8000mAh Solar Power Bank Dual USB Battery Charger Set For Mobile Phone 13.5 6.8 1.8 8000 Single LED with diffuser Compass caribiner and belt clip. $20.29 Free

    I had also checked these out at Atmosphere, where they cost $90 CAD and more.   This made the prices online look very attractive.

    http://www.noahscave.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Tollcuudda-Waterproof-10000Mah-Solar-Power-Bank-Solar-Charger-Dual-USB-Power-Bank-with-LED-Light-for.jpg-2.jpg

    A typical portable solar charger, $66 USD at Noahs Cave.com

    In the end, I decided to order from amazon.ca at $28, thinking that at least some of my money would stay in Canada.  The price was a little higher than at banggood for what appears to be an identical unit, but Amazon promised a 1-week delivery compared to the typical three weeks from bangood.com.

    Guess what:  the unit I ordered just shipped from China.  It will arrive in about three weeks.

  • Weekend Bike Tour Review

    Posted on June 18th, 2017 admin No comments

    Earlier, I posted a gear list for an upcoming overnight bike tour. The tour’s over and it was a good experience.

    Setting Out

    On day 1 we had sunshine but brisk NW winds, I think 30 kph.  This was a fine tailwind for the first leg of my run, 20 km from Leduc to Millet, to join the Circuit Cycle club for this Meetup.  From there, we — hosts and trip organizers/leaders Brian and Teresa, with riders Roger, Melissa, Tanya, I — set out about 10:30 and the first leg was south, so we had the wind at our back then.  On turning west, however, we started a long tough slog.  Tanya has medical issues so part-way along arranged for a ride to the campsite.  The rest of us ploughed on into the wind, followed by a few kilometers of gravel.

    On a 27 km test run on Friday, just after a brief but heavy rainstorm.

    On a 27 km test run on the Friday before the tour, taken just after a brief but heavy rainstorm.

    The wind had delayed us considerably, so some of us stopped on the side of the road for lunch.  The rest of the group caught up to us too soon, so I packed up hastily and we moved on into the wind.  Total distance from Millet to camp was 29 km.

    At the Camp

    Once at our destination, we set up our tents.  One interesting observation:  All the others faced the door of their tents towards the center of the clearing where the firepit was.  Without thinking, I angled my tent with the vent downwind and the door facing away from the campfire.  A bit odd, because the surrounding forest mostly protected us from the wind.

    We played Frisbee (using my cloth disc, which the others dubbed “the flying underwear”, and a couple of others), sat around the fire and schmoozed, played “What’s that Song” on Brian’s phone, and consumed a number of coolers and weiners which our hosts had thoughtfully stowed at the site in coolers the day before.

    A few people woke up cold at 5 am and started the fire for an early breakfast. I noticed that Melissa and I slept the latest, I’m guessing because we had the most experience with our gear.  But that’s just conjecture.  More about gear in a bit.

    Camped in the clearing.  My orange tent at left.

    Camped in the clearing. My orange tent at left.

    Heading Home

    Partly because of the possibility of storms in the afternoon, but I think also because several people were tired and wanted to get home, we changed our departure time from after lunch to ASAP.  The 5am risers were pretty much packed, so the rest of us decamped and we took off at  9:00 am.  The weather was cool and cloudy but the wind was light.   We took a different and much easier route home, 24 km to Millet.  Roger took a short cut to his home (his knee was hurting).

    Four of us returned to Circuit Cycle, then went to a local restaurant for a tasty Chinese buffet.   From there, I returned to Leduc, a trip which has previously taken 45 minutes.  I met a freshening headwind that dragged that 20 km trip out to 75 minutes (toting 15 kg of gear didn’t help, you bet!).   By the time I got home, I was one tired old dawg!

    Gear Analysis

    On the whole, I think I packed well, even though I appeared to be carrying more gear than the others.

    What I was glad I took

    • My crushable hat (I was the only one with a hat. Guess I’m weird.)
    • The “flying underwear”
    • the tent, sleeping bag and mat that I had purchased and pre-tested
    • a 710 mL sports drink that I bought in Millet, extended my water supply.

    What I will take for next trip

    • A moist microfiber facecloth in a ziplock bag to make for easier hand/face wash

    What I may not take on the next trip

    •  Deck of cards (heavy and maybe not needed?)
    • The cute little Light My Fire lunch set
    • So many spare clothes — could easily have aired and worn things again

    What I took and didn’t use

    • Binoculars
    • Tent footprint
    • Nylon tarp
    • Rope and parachute cords
    • Sleeping Bag Liner
    • Hydration pak — forgot to even fill it up, but would have needed more water if Brian & Teresa hadn’t brought coolers
    • Disposable razor

    Looking at that list, I think the first five are useful.  I could have left the footprint because I knew we’d be in a grassed area.  I’d have used the tarp and ropes for gear storage and to cover the tent entrance if rain had threatened.  In warmer or cooler weather, I’d want the liner. I’d have used the binocs had I been on my own, but pressure to keep up with the group made some stops shorter than I’d have liked.  And different destinations might make them good to have.

    What Worked and What Didn’t

    Being familiar with my gear, having tested it out in my back yard and at our acreage, was a big help

    The tent, pad, and sleeping bag all worked well.   I was snug and warm and comfortable all night (except 4:00 am when my prostate insisted I needed to get up  and go).   There was condensation in the tent but it was not too much problem as I left one vestibule door open, only waking up to close it halfway during a brief rain shower (love the rain on a tent!  Went right back to sleep).  I will make some mods to the tent to improve ventilation.  My gear under the vestible and inside the tent stayed dry.

    Organizing things in stuff sacks worked well.  Things didn’t shift around or get jumbled.  I knew where to look for things for the most part. The sacks do add a few grams of weight but I think it was worth it.

    Stowing snacks was okay if I stuck to side pockets and the handlebar bag. Putting my food in a big plastic shopping bag didn’t.  I’ll need a better system for stowing food.

    The little Trangia spirit stove worked well.  Water on, then go pack up.  Make coffee, make oatmeal, put bacon on to cook.  Finish oatmeal, eat bacon, use remaining warm water to clean up with toilet paper that then goes into the firepit (it would go into a bag to pack home otherwise).

    I was underhydrated on the way home, even though I drank two glasses of water at the cafe with lunch.

    In Review

    All in all, it was a good learning trip.  A big thank you to the organizers and to my fellow cyclists for fun and fellowship (and even if I’m quiet, I am still enjoying!)

    I’m all set to go on another self-supported tour.

    Further Reading

     

     

  • Google Adsense and My Blog

    Posted on June 16th, 2017 admin No comments

    This is in the LOL category.

    I have ads on my blog, arranged by Google Adsense.  When people visit my blog and click on one of the ads,  I make a little money.

    Google pays me when my ad income reaches $100 USD.

    The ads on my blog bring in roughly $2 a month.

    It will take 50 months, or over four years, to reach that total.  Whee!

    There is hope.  My best month, May 2012, hit $8.32.   On the other hand, there are many months with $0.02 or $0.04 to bring the average down. Fortunately, there are more months  with $1 or more than there are months less than $1, making the average $2.14/month.

    So maybe I’ll hit a payout by 2022!

     

  • Gearing Up for a Weekend Bike Tour

    Posted on June 15th, 2017 admin 3 comments

    My friend Brian at Circuit Cycle & Sports in Millet has organized a Meetup for a short overnight bike tour training ride.   We’ll be traveling about 27 km then staying overnight at his acreage.  It’s kind of “bike touring for absolute beginners” and it sounds like fun.  Although I’ve done backpacking, winter camping, and canoe camping (as well as car camping), I’ve never done this kind of cycling before.  I’m looking forward to it.

    Here’s a list of my gear and where/how it’s stowed.  Darren Alff, “The Bicycle Touring Pro“, says that a common beginner mistake is to pack too much.  I’m a beginner.  Am I carrying too much along?

    I’ve done a couple of “test runs” and have used all the equipment, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises.  Some items, such as the sleeping bag liner and clothing choices, may be omitted or changed at the last minute, depending on the weather, and I’ll probably be reorganizing during/after the ride.

    On the Rack

    Besides the rear panniers, my sleeping bag and tent are bungied to the rear rack.  Sleeping bag compression sack also contains the sleeping pad.

    20170615_124425

    Marmot Nanowave bag and compression bag, 1138 g; Therm-A-Rest Trail Scout and stuff sack, 636 g; both at Atmosphere. Naturehike tent from Banggood.com, 1586 g.  Footprint for tent, stowed elsewhere, 238 g.

    Rear Panniers

    These are Axiom 20L panniers from United Cycle.  They are joined so that with one handle you can grab them both.  I wasn’t sure they were big enough, but they turned out to be quite roomy and can hold all of what you see here with room for a little more.

    Right Rear Pannier:  Cooking & Stuff

    In the right rear “side pocket” are a steel mirror, some songbooks, a pannier cover, and that’s about it.  Maybe I’ll think of something to add later.

    The main right rear pouch contains cooking gear and some other stuff, organized in stuff sacks:

    Right pannier

    Right pannier

    Cooking gear and ... tent footprint

    Cooking gear and … tent footprint

    Stove and pot set

    Stove and pot set.  Trangia Mini, $45 from MEC: pot, frypan, methanol burner, pot handle

    Mess kit

    Lunch Kit by Light My Fire, in Sweden.  Lightweight, $25 at Atmosphere, but I have my doubts about its usefulness.

    Cooking stuff -- spatula, salt & pepper, instant coffee, spices, TP for cleanup, soap, etc.

    Cooking stuff — spatula, salt & pepper, instant coffee, spices, TP for cleanup, soap, etc.  Stuff I’ve had and used for years.

    Mug, utensils, & fuel bottle

    Mug & utensils I’ve used for years; Trangia fuel bottle, $22 Canadian Outdoor Equipment

    Rope & parachute cord. Not for cooking, but it happened to fit in that side nicely.

    Rope & parachute cord. Not for cooking, but it happened to fit in that side nicely.

    Some food.  It and some more will be stowed here and there.

    Some food. It and more will be stowed here and there.

    Left Pannier:  Clothes & Personal Stuff

    On the other side I’ve stowed clothes, toiletries, hat, games, and whatever.  Probably some food.  I’ve used stuff bags wherever possible for organizing my stuff <hehe>

    Left pannier

    Left pannier

     

    Hmm.  Hat, sleeping bag liner, frisby, toiletries kit, wrench, spare tube, CO2 inflator, clothing bag

    Hmm. Crushable hat, sleeping bag liner, folding frisbee, toiletries kit, wrench, spare tube, CO2 inflator, clothing bag.  First aid kit from outside pocket is bottom right.  Playing cards… where are the cards?

     

    First aid kit, courtesy of my wife the nurse. It's in the side pocket for quick access.

    First aid kit, courtesy of my wife the nurse, that we’ve used for years (updated annually)  It’s in the pannier side pocket for quick access.

     

    Spare clothing including dry pants, zip on bottoms for the shorts I'll be riding in, spare T, long-sleeved wool undershirt

    Spare clothing including dry pants, zip on bottoms for the shorts I’ll be riding in, spare T, long-sleeved wool undershirt

     

    Toiletries including camp towel

    Toiletries including camp towel, soap, etc.  Yes, I’m carrying that heavy electric toothbrush!

     

    Handlebar Bag

    Bought this bag from Circuit Cycle last week.  It opens from the front.  Why do they make them like that?  It would make much more sense to me to have it open from the bike side, where I’m sitting.

    Handlebar bag

    Handlebar bag.  Jacket not shown.

     

    Inside the handlebar bag: binoculars, reflective vest, sunglasses, riding/camp gloves, TP & Kleenex, headlamp, carry strap. Missing: jacket

    Inside the handlebar bag: binoculars, reflective vest, sunglasses, riding/camp gloves, TP & Kleenex, headlamp, carry strap.

    Oops, forgot these were in the side pocket: lip balm, bug repellent

    Oops, forgot these were in the side pockets:   lip balm, bug repellent

     

    What’s it Weigh?

    I’m still moving things and have the food to stow, but for now, here’s how things measure up:

    • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, compression sacks: 1.8 kg (3.1 lb)
    • Tent & Bungies: 1.7 kg (3.5 lb)
    • Panniers: 6.1 kg (about 13.5 lb)
    • Front Bag: 1.8 kg (about 3.7 lb)

    I also plan to carry my hydration pack with 2L of water and maybe some other bits of gear, plus two 750 ml water bottles for another 1.5L of water.  The mass of 3.5 L of water can be taken as 3.5 kg (love the metric system!) or about 7.7 lb; call it 4 kg or about 8.8 lb.

    So I’ll be toting roughly 11 kg (24 lb) without including water, 15 kg or about 33 lbs including water.

    I haven’t bothered to list the clothes I’m wearing.  Nor did I think to include things in my pockets,  etc. that will go into a bag somewhere.  Those items include a light wallet with credit card, drivers’ licence, Alberta Health card, and a little money; a small Swiss Army knife, a comb,  Sugoi cycling jacket, light raincoat.  They’ll add some mass too.

    Did I get it all?

    Please comment below if you notice something missing!  Or if you see something in the list that I could do without.

     

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